Impact of small-scale vegetation structure on tephra layer preservation

Nick A. Cutler, Olivia M. Sheers, Richard T. Streeter, Andrew J. Dugmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The factors that influence tephra layer taphonomy are poorly understood, but vegetation cover is likely to play a role in the preservation of terrestrial tephra deposits. The impact of vegetation on tephra layer preservation is important because: 1) the morphology of tephra layers could record key characteristics of past land surfaces and 2) vegetation-driven variability in tephra thickness could affect attempts to infer eruption and dispersion parameters. We investigated small- (metre-) scale interactions between vegetation and a thin (<10 cm), recent tephra layer. We conducted surveys of vegetation structure and tephra thickness at two locations which received a similar tephra deposit, but had contrasting vegetation cover (moss vs shrub). The tephra layer was thicker and less variable under shrub cover. Vegetation structure and layer thickness were correlated on the moss site but not under shrub cover, where the canopy reduced the influence of understory vegetation on layer morphology. Our results show that vegetation structure can influence tephra layer thickness on both small and medium (site) scales. These findings suggest that some tephra layers may carry a signal of past vegetation cover. They also have implications for the sampling effort required to reliably estimate the parameters of initial deposits.
Original languageEnglish
Article number37260
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2016


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